The Recorder – Lawmakers talk public and green banking at Buckland Forum

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BUCKLAND — State lawmakers met with area residents Monday at City Hall to continue their advocacy for green banking and public banking legislation.

“One of the issues we’ve worked on together through different bills is how do we help provide capital support to small businesses, whether it’s through small towns and villages, around housing affordable, around climate resilience,” said Sen. Jamie Eldridge, D.-Acton, one of the lawmakers behind a pushing to establish a public bank in Massachusetts. “I think that’s a particular problem the further you get from Boston. Often the big banking institutions don’t focus so much on rural parts of the state.

A public bank is a bank owned by the people through their representative government and operated in the public interest, according to Massachusetts Public Banking, a voluntary effort organized as a project sponsored by the Alliance for Democracy, an organization non-partisan national government founded in 1996. Government revenues are deposited in the bank and the bank then makes loans for the benefit of communities and businesses.

“Organizing around the public banking bill has been very strong,” Eldridge said, noting he’s not likely to pass the current session. “It was proposed as a commission a few years ago, and it became a bill.”

State-owned banks, Eldridge explained, would fill the void left by traditional banks, which often don’t focus on lending because it doesn’t fit the profit model.

“It’s a role for the government to step in and provide the funding,” he said. “The bill I introduced would initially have $50 million in start-up capital to run the bank, and then it would be an independent entity.”

Green banks, on the other hand, are public or quasi-public entities created to facilitate private investment in low-carbon, climate-resilient infrastructure, according to State Representative Paul Mark, D-Peru, who invited Eldridge to the area on Monday.

“This bank can focus exclusively on this type of project and … try to get things done,” he said.

Eldridge said there was a possibility that the concept of a green bank could be included in the public banking bill.

“The public and green banking models really come together,” he said.

Among those present on Monday was Buckland resident Janet Sinclair, who asked lawmakers what oversight there would be to determine where the money is being spent. She warned against state money being spent on controversial projects among residents.

“Cities and towns are applying for these projects,” Eldridge replied. “Unless the municipal government supports it, it won’t happen.

Residents then moved the conversation to other areas of interest, including climate change legislation, the status of Medicare for All and a particular local concern – the lack of resources allocated to school districts. rural. In general, residents feel there needs to be a better understanding of rural school districts by Eastern legislators.

“These visits, they build that education, that knowledge,” said Mark, who is running to represent the district of Berkshire, Hampden, Franklin and Hampshire in the state Senate.

Sharon Tracy of New Salem asked how likely western Massachusetts would receive money through the Fair Share Act, which would amend the Massachusetts Constitution to add a 4% tax on annual income over 1 million bucks. The Fair Share amendment is on the November statewide ballot, where it must now be decided by voters

“The money is coming,” Mark said, reassuring locals. “It’s always tough to make sure we get our fair share of the pie. … I think we’re doing a good job fighting above our weight class.

Eldridge was the third of 40 state senators Mark invited to the area to discuss various issues.

“I thought as a rep it was important to bring in colleagues from the east to learn more about our region’s unique needs,” Mark said, “and talk about their work as well.”

Journalist Mary Byrne can be reached at [email protected] or 413-930-4429. Twitter: @MaryEByrne

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